It was two days before my due date and it felt like I had been pregnant forever. The past few weeks had been so uncomfortable, and the last week I’d been having on/off contractions which had me thinking “this is it!” every time. But they’d never build up to anything and I was starting to be convinced that I’d be going way past my due date.
It was a Saturday morning, and I was so pleased to have John home with us. He works in London, and is at least an hour and a half away, so I’d been really concerned that if things kicked off quickly then he might not make it. And those last few weeks of pregnancy with a toddler to look after mean that the weekends can’t come around quickly enough! I’d been sticking fairly close to home in the last week and I was desperate to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, so we decided to head to RHS Wisley – my favourite place to potter around. I’d been having stomach cramps all morning and had wondered if this might be it, but by the time we arrived at Wisley at about 10.30 they were coming around every 15 minutes regularly and I commented to my husband that I thought this really was the start of things! He asked whether I thought we needed to head home, but I was conscious that with my first labour I had contractions like this for a day and a half before they got close enough to head into the hospital, and as they really weren’t painful I decided that we should stay and have a nice wander around the roses.
We made our way up to the cafe, where we’d promised Max lunch, and by the time we’d finished they were coming around every 7 minutes, so I told John I thought it was time to head home and to call my parents to come and pick up Max. We got back home at about 13.00, my Dad arrived to pick up Max and we waved him off for a sleepover, knowing that the next time we saw him we would be introducing him to his little brother! With Max sorted, I could relax a little bit, and we gave the birthing centre a call to let them know that things were happening. I chatted to them on the phone, letting them know that the contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but still not painful, so I said I’d rather stay at home at that point, which they were happy with.
I sat in the garden for a little bit, posted an Instagram photo of our morning out – all very relaxed! Then things started to get a bit more painful, so I headed upstairs to lie down in the bedroom. After a bit of moaning through the contractions, I shouted out to John to bring up the Tens machine that I’d put in my labour bag. He turned up with it, started hooking up all the pads and wires, only to find that we’d obviously misplaced quite a crucial cable last time around, because it wasn’t there! I remember snapping “oh, just forget about it then!”, as he went to run me a bath instead. But by the time the bath had been run, I’d decided that things were definitely getting more painful and I wanted to head into the birthing centre. So another call to the hospital and at 14.15 we got in the car and started the drive to the hospital. Things were becoming progressively more painful as the journey went on and by the time we arrived at the hospital they were coming every 3 minutes. I had one contraction as we parked in the car park, and it was too painful to move, so I knew we had to move quickly to get to the birthing centre once it had finished. I told John to just bring my labour bag but leave the other bags in the car in case we were sent back home as things hadn’t progressed enough, and we made a dash for it!
Once we got in, we were met straight away by two midwives who asked a few questions about how things were going, and I was hit by a couple of big contractions that had me leaning on John and moaning. The midwives were great at getting me to slow my breathing down, before saying “right, let’s get you into a room so we don’t have a baby in the corridor!” I remember laughing and saying I thought we were a fair way off that point yet! The birthing centre room was great, so different to the very ‘medical’ hospital room I’d had Max in – lovely a spacious, with a huge birthing pool, bean bags, birthing ball, and en-suite. The midwives took my heart rate and blood pressure, and I was fully expecting my heart rate to be too high to stay in the birthing centre, which is what happened with Max, but to my surprise they found everything was normal, so asked if I’d like to use the pool. I’d wanted a water birth first time around, but the fast heart rate, and then meconium in the waters meant that it wasn’t possible. So I was really pleased that it looked like it was going to happen this time! They started filling the pool and by this point I was complaining that I wasn’t getting a break between contractions anymore. I’d expected that they would want at least to do an examination, but instead they encouraged me to get into the pool as it was filling up. I’d packed a bikini top in my bag in the hope of a water birth, but in the heat of things I couldn’t be bothered to faff around with getting it out and just got in in my bra. It was as I was getting in the pool that John said “Do you think we should get the bags in from the car?” and I realised that the baby bag and my bag for after the birth were still waiting in the car, and John hurried off to get them!
I’d really struggled to find any position that was comfortable before getting in the pool – standing was awful, sitting was even worse – but once I was in the pool the midwife was wonderful in encouraging me to get into a good position on my knees, despite my protests that I couldn’t move! The first contraction in the water and in that position was so much better – I could breathe through it! And the gas and air had made an appearance too which I’m sure massively helped! My lovely midwife redid my hair into a bun at this point too as it had all come loose – it’s amazing the little things that help!
And then John was back – he must have legged it to and from the car! And it’s a good job he did, because just after he got back I felt a huge pressure and heard the midwife say to slow down, that what I was feeling was the waters bulging out, as they hadn’t broken. I know a few friends who’ve babies have been born in their waters, but apparently it’s really rare, and is supposed to mean that they’ll be lucky in life. I hope so! There was another pain and I was told to release the pressure in my bottom and then came the announcement that there was the head! One more push and I heard the words, “now sit back and pick up your baby!” Sure enough, I looked down, and there he was, our little Ben, ready and waiting for me to pick up out of the water! I couldn’t believe how quick it had all been – we’d arrived at the hospital at 14.30, and he was born at 14.54! The birth pool had only just finished filling up as he was born, but I got my water birth in the end!
The after birth experience was so so different to first time around. Although our birth experience first time around was good, the post-natal ward was awful – we were moved very quickly (only an hour after Max was born and before I’d had a shower or Max had had his first feed), and John was sent home as it wasn’t visiting hours on the ward. But this time, being in the midwife led birthing centre (and it being a particularly quiet time for them) meant that the midwives just pulled out a double bed for us both to relax on, and a little crib, and it really felt like a lovely, comfortable place for us all to get to know each other for the first few hours. I was told whenever Ben needed feeding to buzz and they would come and help, and John was allowed to stay overnight. It was such a different experience and really did make all the difference to those early days. Probably a topic for another blog post though really!
I thought my birth experience with Max had been pretty good, but this time around was so different. I think a big part of that comes from the fact that, although birth is still such a huge unknown, you know that your body has done it before, and you know you can do it. I couldn’t believe that it all happened so quickly and smoothly, and I’m so grateful to the midwives who read the situation and how close things were far better than I had and got everything sorted for us so quickly!